iDisk Access

I may be in the minority, but I’ve got more than one .Mac account, which means I frequently connect to different iDisks. In addition, I help a few friends and relatives with their computers, which at times involves connecting to their iDisks using their login information.

Mac OS X makes it easy to connect to your own iDisk—you just enter your account information in the .Mac pane of System Preferences once, and from that point on all you need to do is click the iDisk icon in the sidebar of Finder windows. (You can also choose the My iDisk item in the Finder’s Go menu, via the iDisk submenu.) But what about connecting to an iDisk other than the one listed in .Mac preferences? Apple’s official method is to mouse to the iDisk submenu in the Finder’s Go menu, and then choose Other Users’s iDisk; you then type in the username and password of that .Mac account. I don’t know about you, but I find that to be a hassle when I'm regularly accessing these “other” iDisks. You could instead use the Finder’s Connect to Server command and type in the appropriate URL for an iDisk, then enter the username and password, but, again—hassle. In fact, the easiest way to deal with this situation within the Finder is to create Internet Location files for each iDisk, or to make aliases to each.

But an even easier alternative is Arizona Software’s free iDiskMenu (   ). iDiskMenu is a system-wide menu bar item that’s sole function is to let you define shortcuts to iDisks, WebDAV servers, and FTP servers, and then to connect to any of those remote volumes from a simple menu.

iDiskMenu menu

Setting up iDiskMenu for an iDisk is just as easy as setting up the .Mac pane of System Preferences: You just provide a nickname for the menu shortcut, then enter the .Mac username and password. You can optionally enable the “Reveal in Finder” option, which will open a new Finder window for the iDisk once it’s mounted. Repeat the process for each iDisk to which you want quick access.

iDiskMenu settings window

When you want to connect to (mount) an iDisk, simply choose it from the iDiskMenu menu. You can even unmount the mounted iDisk later by choosing it again from the menu.

Although its own name touts iDiskMenu as a way to connect to iDisks, it can also be used to connect to other WebDAV servers, as well as to connect to FTP servers. To set up a WebDAV or FTP shortcut, you just change the Server Type pop-up menu to the appropriate protocol. (Note that as of OS X 10.3.9, the Finder’s support for FTP is read-only; if you need read/write access to an FTP server, you should use a third-party FTP client such as the excellent Transmit.)

You can also, in theory, connect to other types of servers by choosing the Custom option in the Server Type pop-up menu and then entering the appropriately-formatted URL in the Server Name field. However, I haven’t been able to get this to work consistently (although given the fussiness of OS X’s Connect to Server dialog, which uses the same URL-based approach, I’m not confident iDiskMenu is at fault here). I’ve also experienced occasional quirks where choosing an iDisk from the menu, either to mount it or unmount it, results in an error; choosing the iDisk again usually works as expected. This isn’t a serious bug, but it’s still annoying when it happens. But even with these two issues, iDisk is a unique and useful utility that I use regularly.

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